Starting before the beginning

"The performance experience does not just start in the theatre or performance space. You have to remember that children on the autism spectrum in particular may have difficulty dealing with things in everyday life. How to cope in a shop or visit somewhere doesn’t come to them instinctively.

"Often we go into a school and make our performance there but in public venues we always begin away from the performance space. Today, for instance, we began in a room upstairs where the children could simply play then the performers joined them and, when relaxed with each other, they made their way down to the theatre in a kind of procession. Then we took whatever time was needed to settle them into the hanging leaf chairs in which they experience the show.

"In fact the experience for most of our audiences begins long before that. We provide material for every show so that teachers and carers can tell participants beforehand what to expect. For most of them the adventure starts at school preparing them. Where are they going, who are they going to meet, what is going to happen? This is not about shocks and surprises; that is just what these guys don’t need. We don’t want to put them in a situation they might find overwhelming, we have to give them a sense of security.

"Our involvement does not end with the performance either. Feedback helps our research for future shows and we encourage schools to continue working on the themes and the methods of the show.

"An important feature of our work is the way it can help parents, and teachers can gain greater awareness of the child’s abilities and needs from his or her reactions to the show and build on that, see our work suggesting different ways of experiencing the world and perhaps take on some of our approaches, develop a better relationship with the young people and they will get a more interesting time than they would have done otherwise. We too are learning all the time.